California just reached ~95% renewable energy!

Something remarkable happened over the weekend: California hit nearly 95% renewable energy.

I’ll say it again: 95% renewables. For all the time we spend talking about how to reach 100% clean power, it sometimes seems like a faraway proposition, whether the timeframe is California’s 2045 target or President Biden’s more aggressive 2035 goal. But on Saturday just before 2:30 p.m., one of the world’s largest economies came within a stone’s throw of getting there…

The 94.5% record may have been fleeting, but it wasn’t some isolated spike. Most of Saturday afternoon, the renewables number topped 90%, with solar and wind farms doing the bulk of the work and geothermal, biomass and hydropower facilities making smaller contributions. Add in the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant — which isn’t counted toward California’s renewables mandate — and there was enough climate-friendly power at times Saturday to account for more than 100% of the state’s electricity needs…

There are now 14 electric grid operators participating in the imbalance market, from Arizona Public Service in the Southwest to Idaho Power in the Northwest to Warren Buffett-owned Rocky Mountain Power in the Intermountain West. Several utilities joined this month, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has long zealously guarded its independence. Several more are preparing to join, as far from California as NorthWestern Energy in Montana and El Paso Electric in Texas.

By 2023, the market will cover 83% of electricity demand in the West.

That’s one of the sound, realistic, productive ways to manage climate change and turn energy production into a healthier industry for human beings. Not that conservative denialists care a rat’s ass about any of this. Truth is … we can continue on with this level of progressive change with no participation from rightwingers. They can continue to sit on their hands … while the rest of this nation moves forward.

Biobattery plant turns a wide range of biomass into energy, consumables

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Energy and Safety Technology have developed a “biobattery” in the form of a highly efficient biogas plant that can turn raw materials like straw, scrap wood and sludge into a variety of useful energy sources including electricity, purified gas and engine oil. The new plant design, currently being put to the test in a prototype plant in Germany, is said to be highly modular and economically viable even at the small scale.

The production of biogas  –  gas created by the breakdown of organic matter, by fermentation or through the action of anaerobic bacteria  –  is an interesting complement to other sources of renewable energy since it can not only generate electricity at little cost to the environment, but also create biofuel, fertilizer and engine oil. One issue, however, is that these plants only accept few organic substances as raw materials.

A new biogas plant developed at the Fraunhofer Institute could solve this problem by taking a number of materials that would normally have to be disposed of at great cost – like industrial biomass waste, sewage sludge, straw, scrap wood or manure – and process them with high efficiency into a more useful output, all through a highly modular, flexible design…

The end products can be used in various ways: the oil can be turned into fuel for ships or airplanes; the gases are used to produce electricity in a combined heat and power plant; and the biochar can be used as fertilizer.

Besides the flexibility that comes from accepting multiple raw materials and producing multiple outputs, another crucial advantage to the biobattery is that, according to the scientists’ financial analysis, even a small-scale plant requiring a small investment would be financially profitable. Because of the built-in modularity, the plant could then be gradually upgraded to process more materials with higher efficiency.

In their own way, the Fraunhoher Institute is as interesting a source for advancing life on this wee planet as the Max Planck Institute. Though not as dedicated to basic research as the latter, Fraunhofer turns out more practical science and engineering than most of their peers in the Western world.

This is one more example. RTFA for another few paragraphs of detail. Living as we do on a planet dominated by a species whose progress in economics and commerce is generally accompanied by an inordinate amount of waste – and wastefulness – Fraunhofer’s efforts are more than welcome.

Brits to reintroduce “dangerous” playgrounds to illustrate reality

Traditional playgrounds which teach children about risk and danger are being reintroduced after research found that they aid development.

Climbing frames, monkey bars, sand and water features have been replaced with sterile play areas in recent years amid overzealous health and safety fears.

Councils removed features such as paddling pools sand pits and fitted rubber mats in a bid to avoid costly litigation. But experts believe that the opportunity to assess potential danger and react to risk in the playground helps children make decisions in later life.

South Somerset district council has revised its play strategy and has granted approval for more traditional playgrounds which including stepping logs and wooden forts.

Adrian Moore, the council’s play and youth facilities officer, told the Sunday Times: “Playgrounds are the nursery slopes for real life. If we don’t help children differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable risk, we are failing them.

“Instead of eliminating it, let’s embrace it. In a playground, learning to judge speed, movement and distance stands you in good stead when you master other vital but dangerous skills, such as riding a bike or crossing the road.”

Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway, wrote in the journal Evolutionary Psychology: “Children must encounter risks and overcome playground fears, monkey bars and tall slides are great.

“They approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner. Let them encounter these challenges from an early age and they will master them through play over the years.”

Good grief. I don’t think the kids ever worry about danger.

Mommies and daddies are always ready to rush out in overprotective mode. The best thing they can do is ban parents from anywhere they can watch their children playing.

Fear of falling linked to future falls in the elderly

Elderly people who are very worried about falling are more likely to have a fall – even if they are in reasonable health and their physical risk of falling seems low, new research has found. In contrast, those with a higher physical risk, but who were unconcerned about falling, were actually less likely to fall…

Doctors have spent a lot of time looking at the physical factors that affect risk of falling – for example, people’s eyesight, balance, muscle strength, and the type of medication they take. But it’s been recognised for some time that fear of falling is closely associated with likelihood of having a fall.

What doctors didn’t know was whether fear of falling was simply a rational response to the person’s actual, physical risk. Also, if people were encouraged to be less fearful of falling, would that actually increase their risk of a fall, by allowing them to take more risks..?

About one third of the people in the study had either an overly optimistic or overly pessimistic view of their chances of having a fall, compared with their assessed physical risk.

The people who had a low physical risk, but were very fearful of falling, were much more likely to have a fall than the people with the same level of physical risk, but a low fear of falling.

Perhaps surprisingly, the people who had a high risk on the physical assessment, but who weren’t worried about falling, were much less likely to fall, compared with people with both a high risk and a high fear of falling.

The factors that seemed to increase people’s fear of falls were symptoms of depression, self-perceived poor health, a poorer quality of life, and symptoms of anxiety. People with a lower fear of falling were more likely to have an active lifestyle, less likely to take medicine that could affect their balance, had a higher quality of life, and rated their overall health as good…

However, we can’t be sure that it was simply fear that made the difference to people’s likelihood of falling. It could be that fear was related to something not measured in the study, which affected falls risk. The study doesn’t explain why fear of falling is linked to a higher risk of falling.

This article actually makes me smile. I had a strong fear of falling when I was a kid; but, ended up doing a fair bit of high altitude hill-walking and rough climbing. Reason and acquired skills overcame the fear. Mostly.

Now, at an advanced age and with a chronic condition or two that increases the risk of falling, I wouldn’t say I have a heightened fear of falling – but, I’m more aware of circumstances that might promote a fall.

Yes, I carry a cane – though I use it only a small percentage of the time. I find it useful to get me standing more erect when setting out for one of my dog walks along the fence line. I grabbed this article because I thought it may have moved forward to greater understanding of the phenomenon. At best, it’s confirmation. A start.